by A. S. King
Little, Brown, and Company, 2011. 282 pages.
2011 Cybils Finalist
Since he was seven years old, Lucky Linderman has dreamed about his grandfather, who was Missing in Action in Vietnam so many years ago that Lucky’s father never had his father around. These dreams are dream-like, with dream-like impossible things happening in them. But when Lucky wakes up, he has things in his hand that he was holding during the dream. His grandfather gives him a cigar, for example, and he’s holding it when he wakes up. If he steps in mud, he’s dirty when he wakes up.
That’s not why Lucky’s gotten in trouble at school, though. Here’s how he explains what happened:
All I did was ask a stupid question.
Six months ago I was assigned the standard second-semester freshman social studies project at Freddy High: Create a survey, evaluate data, graph data, express conclusion in a two-hundred-word paper. This was an easy A. I thought up my question and printed out 120 copies.
The question was: If you were going to commit suicide, what method would you choose?
This was a common conversation topic between Nader (shotgun in the mouth), Danny (jump in front of a speeding truck) and me (inhaling car fumes), and we’d been joking about it for months during seventh-period study hall. I never saw anything bad in it. That kind of stuff made Nader laugh. And Nader laughing at my jokes meant maybe I could get through high school with less shrapnel.
I think you can see why this survey led to “concern,” but the fallout also leads to bullying. And he gets some answers to his survey from surprising places.
As the book continues, Lucky deals with more bullying and a trip with his Mom to Arizona to stay with his mother’s brother and wife, crazy Aunt Jodi. All the while, he’s dealing with these dreams that are somehow real. And the ants? Well, the ants are a sort of Greek chorus that Lucky sees, who watch and comment on his every move.
They first appear when he’s being bullied:
Ants appear on the concrete in front of me. Dancing ants. Smiling ants. Ants having a party. One tells me to hang on. Don’t worry, kid! he says, holding up a martini glass. It’ll be over in a minute!
All of this may sound strange, and it is. The book is strange, and the phenomena are never explained. But somehow it all adds up to a powerful and moving story about a boy growing up and learning to face tough things. By the end of the book, you’re completely on the side of Lucky Linderman, and confident that he’s going to make it through high school.
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Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at an ALA conference and checked against a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.
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